Love/Hate Tropes #3: Sexy Villains

Who can resist the allure of a Sexy Villain? Whether in movies or books, there’s something so delightfully wrong about a bad guy you can’t quite manage to hate.

The Marvel Studios: "Thor: The Dark World" And "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" - Comic-Con International 2013

Except for the fact that they are, actually, the villain. They hurt and maim people. They’re selfish and egotistical, and they lack the ability to care about others. Which is pretty unsexy.

I think this happens when the MC is either really fucking boring (Hi, movie Thor!) or is sexually attracted to the villain because the writer wanted to add some tension.

With the first one, I have noticed that it’s more obvious in movies than in books, though it certainly exist there too. Some writers have a harder time fleshing out the hero; it’s like they have to be Perfect with only a couple of minor flaws. But that only makes them harder to identify with. In the comic books, Thor has more personality (no, really!), but it seems to have evaporated in the movies in favour of rock hard abs*. Abs are fine and dandy, but I’ll take depth of personality any day.

A secondary version of this type is that the writers go too far with the flaws, making the MC harder to like, while the villain is easier to relate to. I’ve seen this one more often in ‘chick lit’, where the female MC spends all their time fretting over life, rather than owning her choices. The ‘bad boy’ she shouldn’t chose at least generally has his shit together, at least in comparison to the MC.

For the sexual tension between MC and villain, it can be a very tricky road to go down. I remember reading about how LKH originally planned to have her MC Anita Blake to kill off Jean-Claude, but by the time the writer got to that book, she just couldn’t do it. She then had to create more backstory to validate keeping him ‘alive’; not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely more work!

So unless you don’t mind the villain sticking around and taking over the whole story, be careful about making them sexy!


*Why yes, I do have some issues with the Thor movies, why do you ask? 🙂



15 thoughts on “Love/Hate Tropes #3: Sexy Villains

    • I also prefer dark hair to blond (and ginger above both!), but I was trying to figure out why I found myself more interested in Loki, when he’s so very selfish and pouty. And I realized I tended to like villains more in general, so I wanted to figure out why!

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  1. Well, I’m late to the party, but I’ve thought waaaay too much about the Thor movie canon and have come to the conclusion that the real villains are Asgard in general, but especially Odin. (Which wouldn’t be a horrible fit with mythology, btw.) it’s pretty obvious that he’s lying to Loki about his origins, given that the story doesn’t even make sense…

    Anyway, I noticed in myself the same tendency to root for the villains, so I began analyzing when it happened and the characteristics of the type of stories I did it in and realized the chances of me identifying with the villain increase when the story is coded in certain ways. It’s less “sexy” for me that the pitting of a brute strength “hero” against a brainy “villain, especially when the villain is also “queer” coded (I’m staring straight at that stupid slap in the second movie), Or otherwise portrayed in more “feminine” ways than the hero. I will also say tha the visual iconography of the contrast between them makes me wanna kick both Branaugh and Whedon very hard.

    I want the “villain” to win because the villain represents me as the outsider. Especially when the “hero” (such as movie Thor) is an outright asshole. (Sorry, but I don’t buy that 3 days mashing on Natalie Portman is a redemptive arc. Nor does he stop being an impulsive asshole who lets the hammer do the thinking – see Avengers.)

    Okay, I’m gonna stop ranting now, and get back to that piece of fic I’ve got hidden on an old laptop wherein I attempt to fix the mess of a redemptive arc MCU has left us with.

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      • Also as you point out, Thor was horribly written. They counted on the heroic iconography to carry the day and never bothered to make their hero, you know, heroic. We knew at the beginning of the film that he’s physically brave and more than a little reckless, so that he tries to protect his friends? Not really any growth there. Honestly, I kept waiting for Loki to check him for a fever with the incoherent babbling at the end. Then again, Loki’s lines weren’t much better. It’s not a good sign when you want to send both hero and villain to their rooms with a cup of theraflu (and in Loki’s case, a book on enmeshed family structures resulting from parental narcissism)

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